NEW ORLEANS — Joe Flacco has come in from the cold.
In five seasons, the Baltimore quarterback has played only eight games in indoor stadiums, and only three in true domes: at St. Louis (2011), Atlanta (2010) and Minnesota (2009). He's 4-4 in domes or retractable-roof stadiums. Sunday, he'll play in the Superdome for the first time.
"Is that all I've played in domes? … That's pretty crazy," he said. "The truth of the matter is, when I get in here and start throwing the ball around, you really get kind of excited about it just because you can tell the difference. The ball really goes in here and there are no real elements to deal with."
In the AFC, only Indianapolis and Houston have indoor venues. There are seven such stadiums in the NFC: Dallas, Minnesota, Detroit, New Orleans, Atlanta, St. Louis and Arizona.
Dazed and amused
"I don't really get star-struck," he said. "I think the first time I really got star-struck was when I met Ray Lewis for the first time. It wasn't really star-struck, though. It was like, 'Bam!' then that was it."
That sounds closer to seeing-stars-struck.
The Ravens faced a dual-threat quarterback this season who was just as dangerous as Colin Kaepernick — Washington's Robert Griffin III. The Redskins star threw for 242 yards with a touchdown, and ran seven times for 34 yards, in a 31-28 victory on Dec. 9.
Late in that game, RGIII suffered a knee sprain on a scramble. He sat out for a play, came back in for four, then was done for the day. Fellow rookie Kirk Cousins stepped in and directed a pivotal touchdown drive and conversion keeper.
Baltimore defensive tackle Haloti Ngata recalled his hit on RGIII that ended the quarterback's game: "I didn't think I even hit him that hard. His body just kind of fell underneath me. Again, I didn't think I hit him that hard, but when you see the replay, you can see that his leg kind of whipped around. It kind of blew my mind that he actually got up and started limping off the field. For him to actually come back in the game and play was unbelievable."
San Francisco's Randy Moss has assembled an impressive career — most impressive, it seems, to him. He told reporters Tuesday that he considers himself the best to play the position, a peculiar boast by a guy who plays for a franchise that once employed one Jerry Rice.
"I don't really live on numbers, I live on impact, what you are able to do out on the field," Moss said. "I really do think that I'm the greatest receiver to ever play this game. Now that I am older I do think I am the greatest receiver to ever do it. I don't think numbers stand because this year has been a down year for me statistically."
Rice, in turn, told ESPN's Adam Schefter: "Put my numbers up against his numbers."
Doing that tilts the scale heavily in favor of Rice, who had 567 more catches than Moss, for 7,603 more yards and 41 more touchdowns.
The NFL Players Assn. plans to fund a 10-year, $100-million research project by Harvard Medical School focused on player health and wellness. The money was negotiated into the labor agreement with the league in 2011, and comes out of the players' portion of revenue.
Harvard was chosen by the NFLPA's medical research consultant and players after a selection process that lasted months and included more than 20 of the nation's top medical research institutions. The decision is pending league approval.
The project will study not only brain injuries in football, but also heart disease, bone and joint injuries, and the chronic pain and depression that can plague players during and after their careers.
"The most remarkable aspect of this commitment to medical research is that the players had the vision to consider this at a time when they were locked out," NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said. "They made a long-term investment in their health and well-being."